Thursday, July 11, 2019

AfCFTA Implementation Strategies-Part-1: The Committee

It is interesting to know that Nigeria has finally signed the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) at the last summit of the African Union in Niger. This was an historic event for Nigeria because of the much-awaited desire for Nigeria to sign the AfCFTA. President Buhari initially planned to sign this free trade agreement during the launching at Kigali, Rwanda in March 21, 2018 but he later changed his mind because of some concerns raised by Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) and other organized private sector on the likely negative impact of this agreement on Nigeria.
Now that Nigeria has signed, the question we need to ask is how does Nigeria enjoy the benefit of this agreement? What does the country needs to do to ensure that it is well implemented for the benefit of Nigerian populace? How do we ensure that it does not become one of those agreements that Nigeria has signed in the past which are of no value to the citizen?
I will attempt to answer these questions in my next series of articles on AfCFTA Implementation Strategies. This edition is introductory, and it is focused on the composition Inauguration of AfCFTA’s implementation committee. The Inauguration of implementation committee becomes extremely important because of the inability to fully enjoy the benefits of such agreement in the past. Even though, Nigeria is a major beneficiary of ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme (ETLS), I think this actually happened by default because many businesses are not aware of it because there is no regular, active and deliberate effort to maximize the utilisation of the agreement. In a recent survey conducted by 3T Impex Trade Academy, it was observed that majority of SME manufacturers in Nigeria, and particularly in Lagos do not know about the ETLS, not to talk of how to go about registering their product for it. The few that know about it have a lot of issues on why they will not use it and this will be highlighted in the subsequent editions of this article. However, the major issue that came out of the survey was the lack of sensitization on the details of the programme (ETLS), the processes involve and the profits to the businesses in West Africa.
In other to ensure that the Nigerian businesses enjoy in full the benefits of the AfCFTA and also that the prediction of those that are against the signing AfCFTA does  not come to pass, there is a need to begin to actively and intentionally put in place programs and policies that will ensure proper implementation of the agreement. I am of the opinion that the proposed implementation committee should include people from both public and private sector. Public sector should include but not limited to the likes of Nigeria Export promotion Council (NEPC), Nigeria Custom Service (NCS), Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON), National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Trade and Investment, Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC), Small and Medium Scale Enterprise Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN) and the Nigeria Office of Trade Negotiation (NOTN). On the other hand, the private sector should include but not limited to the representatives from National Association of Chamber of Commerce Industry Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA), Bankers Committee, National Association of Small and Medium Scale Enterprise (NASME), Nigerian Association of Small Scale Industrialist (NASSI) and Manufacturer Association of Nigeria (MAN).
In the subsequent series of this article, I will be sharing some thoughts on the challenges and factors that have hindered the implementation of these  type of agreements in other parts of the world including the ETLS and several things that this committee needs to begin to do in order to be able to ensure that Nigeria fully benefits from this agreement. The strategies to be deployed in overcoming the challenges of implementing free trade agreement in general and AfCFTA in particular is summarised in the Six-Pillar Model of Implementation of Free Trade Agreement. These pillars include Communication, Coordination, Collaboration, Capacity, Commitment and Cooperation.
The need to properly implement the AfCFTA is becoming highly imperative. From the 2019 first quarter report of the foreign trade statistics released by the National Bureau of Statistics, there is an increase in the non-oil export volume which contributed about 13.3% of the total export volume from Nigeria. The major sector contributing to this increase is the manufacturing sector which constitute 77.3% of non-oil export and 10.19% of the total export in the first quarter. This is a step in the right direction because majority of what Nigeria will have to export to Africa will be manufactured goods.
The implication of this is that, our manufacturers will now have more markets since they will be exporting duty free and therefore selling at a price that is most likely going to be cheaper than the ones from other continents of the world. This will consequently increase production and invariably increase the propensity of the manufacturers to hire more staff and thereby creating jobs and consequently reducing poverty in the African soil.
Bamidele Ayemibo/

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